The European Union (EU) has finalised a new ‘strategic engagement plan’ with Pakistan, laying a foundation for expanding trade relations between the EU and Pakistan. The announcement was made on Monday at a joint news conference by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and the visiting the EU Representative for Foreign Relations and Security Policy Federica Mogherini.
The agreement was finalised after the fourth round of strategic dialogue between Pakistan and the EU. The visiting delegation was led by Mogherini while Qureshi led Pakistan’s negotiating team.
The Pakistani media views this development as a setback to Indian efforts attempting Pakistan’s global isolation after the deadly Pulwama attack on Indian troops Jammu and Kashmir.
“Today, I would like to announce that Pakistan and the EU have agreed on a new strategic engagement plan. This immense achievement comes after some tedious negotiations and, once further due process is completed, I will be heading Brussels to sign the agreement,” Qureshi announced.
The EU foreign policy chief said the new strategic engagement plan would lay the foundation for further deepening ties between Pakistan and the 27-nation strong economic bloc.
A joint statement issued said the EU side welcomed the priorities of the Pakistani government, focusing on poverty alleviation, investment in human capital, good governance and the rule of law.
The Pakistan side invited the EU side to take benefit of the improved security situation as an opportunity to enhance trade and investment, and people to people contact, including tourism.
Both the sides expressed a strong political commitment towards the mutually beneficial GSP Plus preferential trade regime provided by the EU and to utilise it to its full potential.
Federica Mogherini said Pakistan’s exports to the EU member states had been doubled since 2013 thanks to the GSP plus status is given to Islamabad. She hailed Pakistan’s progress towards democratic stability and the reforms agenda of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government.
“We had very fruitful negotiations on a variety of topics. Our cooperation is very important for both parties, as evident by the fact that Pakistan-EU trade has doubled over recent years thanks to the preferential access agreement,” said Mogherini.
However, she noted that the GSP plus status is linked to Pakistan implementing certain international conventions on human rights, freedom of expression, women rights and other issues.
The two sides reaffirmed their resolve for the promotion and protection of human rights and shared their perspectives on issues related to freedom of religion or belief and the role of civil society. Pakistan and the EU agreed on the importance of further promoting inter-faith harmony.
The foreign minister briefed the visiting EU top diplomat about the steps Pakistan has taken to implement the guidelines of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Qureshi said Pakistan had drawn up a National Action Plan (NAP) to eliminate all forms of terrorism and extremism from the country.
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